BUTLER COUNTY — When Chelsea Schroeder got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County (BBBS) a few years ago, she just wanted to find out how to become involved with helping someone in need.
Flash forward to 2015, and the Butler County resident has been selected as Ohio’s Big Sister of the Year, the Journal-News reported Tuesday.
Schroeder, 24, said she is honored to have been chosen for the award and that her little sister, Esmeralda, has been a joy to be around.
“I saw an ad in the paper about five years ago that had a picture of a big brother and little brother that said the agency was looking for people to join the program, so I followed up and signed up,” Schroeder said. “They said I would be a good match with Esmeralda and after the background and security checks I met her at the playground with her mom and someone from the agency.
“Her father is incarcerated and just seeing how her life was different than mine and seeing how she lives and how much she goes through emotionally made me understand how serious things can affect little kids,” she said.
The bond grew stronger for both, and Schroeder’s impact was felt by Esmeralda and her mother and really helped the 7-year-old grow emotionally.
Vice President of Programs for BBBS, Brigitte Gray, said that Esmeralda’s school work has improved and she has become more outgoing since being matched with Schroeder. Esmeralda’s reading skills have also improved since being a part of BBBS.
“Chelsea has been matched with Esmeralda for so long and it’s funny to think back when she was just 7 years old and now she’s 12 and Chelsea is 24,” Gray said. “We enroll kids between the ages of 7 to 14 — those are our ‘Littles.’ And the ‘Bigs’ are 18 and over. Sometimes the ‘Littles’ can have just as much affect on the ‘Bigs.’”
Schroeder received her BA in social work from Indiana University East in Richmond, Ind., in May and is finishing up her MA at Miami University in social work. The program is a new combination initiative with Wright State University.
“I want to work with elementary school-aged kids as a social worker,” Schroeder said.
But something else will be happening for her pretty soon, as she will now be considered, along with Big Sisters from other states, for the National Big Sister of the Year award. This award will be presented at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s national conference in June in Orlando, Fla.
Getting crowned Ohio’s Big Sister of the year was an honor bestowed on Schroeder after her dedication to helping others has been on display for the past five years .
She also got four of her friends who worked with her at Frisch’s to join and become Big Sisters too.
“They are still doing it and they like it,” Schroeder said.
That kind of dedication has impressed Gray and just about everybody at the agency who has come into contact with Schroeder. The hope is that the entire Butler County community gets inspired to help.
“Chelsea actually did an internship here as well,” Gray said. “The program is absolutely going well, and we want to serve more kids, but just like any other non-profit, we need money, grants and donations to do that.”
Gray added that right now there are 127 local children waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister.
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